Good Luck With That: Chapter 5

[Good Luck With That Content Note: Fat Stigma, Eating Disorders. Please take this content note seriously.]

Good Luck With That: I picked up an advance review copy of this book after some twitter hubbub about the cover copy being fatphobic. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter. I do not recommend reading any of this if you are fat or have lived with disordered eating.

Good Luck With That, Chapter 5 (and finished. done.)

(Tweet Link) Tonight we finish this book, #GoodLuckWithThat, by which I mean: I am done. I have read chapter 5 and chapter 6, I have skimmed the pages between them and the ending, I have read several of the end chapters. I'm done. Funnily enough, I don't feel as though the book beat me by getting me to give up. I feel as though I beat the book by refusing to play its game.

It *wants* you to read it for the rage or pain or voyeurism. I won't play its game. It has no power over me.

Labyrinth Quote: "You have no power over me!"

I am going to tell you what happens in this book, in detail, and spoil the ending entirely. I am going to use this thread to talk about how offensive, how harmful, this book is. I hope no one reads it. Not even for rage-feels.

Chapter 5 is a Georgia chapter. Georgia is the thinnest of the three girls and has slowly (over the narrative) gone from "sorta fat I guess" to "not fat at all". She is also the first to get ANY sort of characterization, backstory, pets, family connections, or indeed family members at all besides "Italian Mom" and "Gay Brother". I think we can safely call who the author likes best: the skinny girl.

Because Georgia is the teacher's pet, her chapter 5 starts out like an actual BOOK CHAPTER. The first in this book, in fact. We hear more about her than just "fat!", probably because she technically isn't fat. This, however, is a trap that lured me in as I tried to coax myself to care about these characters in the interests of fairness.

Midway through Georgia's chapter, TWICE, without any warning or buildup, the narrative drops anorexia and bulimia on us. In the most flippant, casual, callous, HARMFUL ways possible. Just bam. No lead-up. No serious treatment. Anorexia and bulimia are sprinkled into Georgia's backstory the way you'd give another character a scar on his knee from a childhood bike riding accident. It's treated as flavor.

I will self-disclose something here that I don't usually go into, but I have a past with disordered eating and bulimia. I am appalled at how little sensitivity this author treats these subjects. This is page 57:

Every fat girl starves herself at one point or another.

[Note: This is NOT true, and it's incredibly harmful to perpetuate.]

This is page 57:

It had never made me actually thin, not like those poor girls who look like skeletons and stop getting their periods. But at different times of my life, I had enacted their habits...just never long enough for any real drama.

DRAMA. That's how this book characterizes having a serious eating disorder.

Then, on page 63 Georgia passes by a bakery and we get bulimia dropped on us without any warning.

Not for me, though. Too many calories, too much butter, too much regret later on. Once upon a time, I hadn't been above sticking my finger down my throat.

I'm sitting here trying to find the words to tell you how dangerous and harmful this is, but I don't HAVE those words. It's like trying to tell you why you shouldn't break people's legs. There was NO warning on the cover copy (either version!) about eating disorders. And this isn't the only mention, by the way; a later diary chapter shows Emerson bingeing (though not purging) in an incredibly painful and unnecessary scene.

So this is just DROPPED into the text without any warning, without even a sensitive build-up, and with stigmatizing, snotty language. "I hadn't been ABOVE" bulimia. Anorexia didn't make her like "those poor girls". Georgia's ED is used to pity and smear others with it. What may be worse: These eating disorders are treated as something all fat people have, which leads to fat people TRYING them out since they're 'destined' to do so anyway.

And since Georgia is the thinnest of the girls (despite the fact that, as the yo-yo dieter she would likely be the fattest because of how bodies react to that), it implies that her ED "worked" for her! That is SO incredibly harmful. So many people think they'll "dabble" in disordered eating, go juuuuuust far enough to get their ideal weight, then stop and "be good" from there. It doesn't work that way, but we WANT it to.

I'd thought Marley's Chapter 4 was harmful for insisting all fat people pound down 3 tubs of ricotta cheese nightly, but Georgia's Chapter 5 is worse for suggesting the solution to the "fat people overeat" problem is just a touch of ED. A sprinkling. In moderation.

This kind of writing can KILL someone. If you're an author following this thread? THAT is why you do not write like this. Not because you'll make Ana's feelings hurt. Because this can lead to someone's death. It is profoundly irresponsible to season a "was fat, now thin" character with eating disorders without addressing VERY VERY CLEARLY that those EDs aren't a good thing that got her weight down and left no nasty side-effects, hooray.

I marched my way through Chapter 5. [Plot: Not one, but TWO people tell Georgia that her thin, hot, handsome, Spanishly stereotypical ex-husband is in town now and she longs for him and misses him and now he's the Love Interest.]

Then I got to Chapter 6, which is an Emerson chapter. Emerson who is dead and not coming back. Yeah, we're still reading her diary. Emerson's diary is scattered throughout these chapters as a cheerful fat girl slowly ground into dust by her weight and the world, and it's torture porn. There is no other, better term for it. It is lavish and voyeuristic in lapping up her pain.

On page 73, Emerson's weight is recorded. I will not record it here. I am, to put a very fine point on it, furious. I was lead to believe by the Discussion Questions that weight would not be used in this book. But actually, only the thin(ner) protagonists are shielded from their weight being splayed on the page. The ~death fatz~ dead girl gets no such privacy.

Emerson's chapters take the same format:

1. Emerson cheerfully tries to Be A Good Fattie.

2. Emerson imagines Other Emerson in lavish detail.

3. Emerson has a hard time because being fat hurts! ouch her knees!

4. Emerson experiences fat hatred.

5. Emerson is sad.

If this book weren't so harmful, it would be almost amusing how badly written the Emerson chapters are at trying to convey a Message about how Being Fat Is Hard (But You Can Do It, YOU Can Get Thinner!).

That completes chapter 7 and I am done. I have skimmed this book and the offensiveness continues. The scene with Emerson bingeing pizza hurt me (been there) while also feeling incredibly 'off', like the author learned about ED from television or aliens.

Now I am going to spoil the endings, and note that I do not think this book works even as a romance.

In the interest of fairness, I will note that if you haven't gone through a character's struggles and journeys, their final payoff is probably not going to move you or feel 'earned' because you weren't there for the emotional attachment. You could flip to the back of one of my books and be like "oh, wow, they saved the day with the power of friendship and queerness, this is my shocked face." But even knowing I haven't put in the time for emotional investment, these romance arcs read as stunningly unsatisfactory to me. Here we go.

We'll do Marley first. Marley does not hook up with Cam, so if you voted Replacement Goldfish in the poll, give yourself 10 points. She instead hooks up with the Worst Client we saw in Chapter 4.

I *had* wondered if the first man we saw would be a love interest, but he was a shitty customer (always making her delay in his creepy house for a long time while he checked the order) and gave her ugly looks for being fat. If you had money in the "ACTUALLY, he doesn't hate her because she's fat, she just THINKS that's why he's glaring because fat people can't POSSIBLY tell when people are judging them" pool, you may collect your winnings on the left.

Will Harding comes to propose to her at her parents' house after a "romance" that is apparently (?? I skimmed) entirely "Netflix and Chill" (making Marley feel like a side-piece) and they watch "My 600 Pound Life" together and he asks if Marley will ever weigh that much. So, I mean, not a romance that sets my loins alight already. Not what sexy fat girl with rocking tits deserves, IN MY OPINION.

His proposal and her acceptance covers exactly 1 page and occurs exactly 20 pages before the end.

"Marley...when I first hired you," Will began, "I hated having you come in, I admit that. You were so--big. Not that way," he amended hastily. "Not size. Your smile, your laugh, the way you talked about food, the way you were so full of life. I couldn't wait to get rid of you."

"Then," Will said, "I started trying to get you to stay a little longer. I'd make you wait for your check so you'd stays [sic] a few more minutes. Then I'd find myself looking at the clock all day, waiting for you to come. You've been the bright spot in my day. In the entire past year, you've been...everything."

"That's beautiful," my mom said, sniffling.

WRITING TIP: If you have to insert a Greek chorus to inform the reader that something was beautiful, it wasn't.

It was. My heart felt too big for my chest, too full and so HAPPY.

[Will] "I know I've asked a lot of you, and I'm sorry. And I'll make it up to you if you let me. I love you. Marry me."

I sucked in a shaky breath. "You sure it's not just about the food?"

"Marley," he said, a smile starting in the corner of his mouth, "it was never about the food."

"Then I guess I have to say yes," I said, and my family burst into tears once more.

Her family has NEVER MET HIM prior to this, by the way. And his proposal is that, because she was pretty and because he wanted to see her, he abused his position as a paying client to FORCE her to loiter in his home so he could look at her.

Since Marley is our fattest living character, that was... really the best our author could imagine? Her awesome food skills let her nurture an injured guy and he decided he liked having a pretty mother-figure around to baby him? God help me. (And if Marley's mama is supposed to be Stereotypical New York Italian Mama, I wish to register a complaint that she thinks this stranger is good enough for her baby, but let us not linger at the scene of a crime.)

Georgia's romance has more burn in it because Georgia is the skinny not-fat one and therefore had more of the author's interest. HER romance is with her ex-husband who is gorgeous and perfect in every possible way and calls her "corazón" once per page. (I have interacted with my ex-husband, folks, and if he was calling me pet names from our marriage, there would have been PROBLEMS. But Rafe is Spanish from Spain and names his cafe after the place where they run the bulls.)

Anyway, on an impulse after seeing Marley engaged, Georgia drives in her pajamas to Pamploma (the restaurant, not the city) and asks for Rafael Santiago, ex-husband, so she can confess her love.

"Rafe", I said, my voice shaking, "Rafael. You were the best thing that even happened to me. When we were together, I didn't know how to love you, or let you love me because I hated who I was. Our divorce was completely my fault."

[Georgia] "I was the problem. I didn't talk to you, I didn't try to fix all the things that had made me miserable in the past, and I was obsessed with how much I weighed and what that said about me. Instead of paying attention to what really mattered--you, us--I just thought about myself. [...] I hated myself because of one thing. It was stupid and shallow and destructive, and I ruined us."

His eyes were growing wet. "I should have listened more. I didn't know how... difficult this was for you."

"I wouldn't tell you." I squeezed his hands hard.

So that's basically it: Georgia (who is thin) blames the entire breakdown of her marriage on the fact that she obsessed about her weight, but she is better now because she has DECIDED NOT TO DO THAT ANYMORE.

Rafe has a girlfriend (Heather) and a life and stuff, and there's 15 pages left to go, so he says he appreciates being told he's Georgia's soulmate and all but she should maybe go home now. She does, serene in her choices. Rafe comes back for the very last page of the novel to say he never stopped loving her all those 5 years of divorced and that he wants to be with her and has disposed of Heather, etc.

So Georgia got her gorgeous man and found peace with being not-fat. And I don't want to belittle thinness--thin people can and do have eating disorders! But there is a big damn difference from where I'm sitting between Marley's happy ending and Georgia's. I'm angry, by the way, that Georgia's eating disorder is characterized as shallow and silly and selfish and not, you know, a SERIOUS ILLNESS that KILLS PEOPLE. Not pleased about that.

Anyway, you'd think I was done, but you would be wrong. There's one more romance to wrap up! Emerson's obsession with Other Emerson. Chapter 38 (of 39 total) is Emerson's last diary entry.

Dear Other Emerson,

I think this might be the last time I write to you. I'm not doing too well. My leg hurts, my chest hurts, and I'm so tired, but I had to write to you one more time. I'm sorry I said I hated you. I don't.

I think I might be dying, OE.

I don't know where Mica is. He hasn't been coming around this past month as much. That might be another sign that I'm on my way out.

So while I never noticed Mica in my skimming, we have proof here he Wasn't A Good Person. ('Why would a GOOD person love someone like Emerson?' the book seems to ask. 'Wait, why are you saying I'm fatphobic when I let Marley stay curvy!??!!?!?')

I didn't make it, Other Emerson. I never became you.

I want you to have a good life. Stop working so much, even though you have a great thing going there. Marry Idris. He loves you so. Have beautiful children with Cockney accents and love them with all your heart.

It'll be okay, Other Emerson. Don't cry. I've been so tired for so long. I want to go home. I'll be so happy when I finally get home.

And that's the end of the torture porn. I hated typing every fucking shitty character. This book hates fat people. There is NO way around that. Everyone involved in the creation of this book should, AT MINIMUM, be sent to sensitivity training.

The only thing even remotely good to come out of this reading for me is that I'm seriously considering writing a fic where "Other Emerson" (an eldritch, Coraline-esque entity) is feeding off Emerson until Emerson kills her. The doctors, of course, do not NOTICE that Emerson shouldn't be dying when her condition is perfectly fine, because she's fat and they are fatphobic. But Emerson knows. Tonight she will slay Other Emerson and miraculously recover her health, blood clot-wise.

Anyway, please do not buy "Good Luck With That" when it comes out. Not even to hate-read. Believe me, it is not a FUN hate-read. It is not educational. There is not one thing redeeming about this book that I could find. And god help me, but I did *try* to be fair. I hope the quotes I typed out will speak for themselves.

Wait. Wait wait wait.

I was marveling over how only the thin one gets a traditionally "girly", traditionally "pretty" name. And then I realized.


Oh my stars and garters.

Martha Stewart's food delivery in real life is called Marley Spoon. The logo is a spoon.

Marley's food delivery service in the book is called "Salt & Pepper" and the logo is two little salt & pepper shakers.

Gonna go write a romance novel about tech billionaire Gill Bates.

I want to add a few last things.

I freely admit to skimming heavily in the middle because it was just so bad. Maybe--MAYBE--there's scenes I missed where the eating disorder stuff is treated with more sensitivity. Maybe Georgia gets counseling. Maybe she just didn't mention it to Rafe. Maybe.

But there's certainly no mention of counseling in the final chapters. Marley and Georgia do end the book happy with their sizes but they continually, THROUGHOUT THE BOOK, contrast themselves as "normal fat" against Emerson's fat. So this book is fatphobic. You cannot be here for the "normal fat" (UGH) people but shit on the heaviest among us and expect ally cookies. There's not some numerical limit at which I will join in fat-hating. Nope nope nope.

One last note that is.... speculation, but it bothers me and I need to get it off my chest.

[Eating Disorders] There is a VERY graphic scene with Emerson binge eating in the book. Someone asked me the difference between binge eating and just eating a lot. Binge eating (for me) was eating when I wanted to stop but couldn't. It HURTS, and is a form of self-harm.

[Eating Disorders] In the scene, Emerson has no food in the house and gets hungry. (This rings real.) In a realistic moment of starvation, she orders pizza delivery. (Have done this.) She buys two medium pizzas, thinking she'll eat one tonight and one tomorrow. She ends up eating them both while sobbing and apologizing to Other Emerson. It's very painful and gratuitous and triggery and DOES NOT GO IN THIS BOOK.

[Eating Disorders] What's weirdest for me, though, is that Emerson doesn't purge afterwards. She doesn't even seem to consider it. Not everyone who binges purges, but in my experience when you've had so much food, it hurts if you don't. You still THINK about it as an option, even if you don't DO it. Emerson... doesn't.

[Eating Disorders] I mention all this triggering stuff because... I seriously, honestly think that the author thought IF Emerson were a purger, THEN she wouldn't have been so fat. IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. Since Emerson IS fat, then I think the author MAY have thought she couldn't have been a purger.

[Eating Disorders] I may be wrong. God help me, maybe there's a scene later where Emerson 'escalates' to purging. I don't know. I don't WANT to know. I didn't even want to talk about THIS much because I know this will trigger people. But it bothers me when you juxtapose Emerson's binge eating and fatness against Georgia's purging and thinness. Almost like the book is saying purging works. That's DANGEROUS.

Anyway, that's... that's all. I gotta figure out how to review this somehow. Be safe, my loves. You are beautiful and this book holds no power over us.

Yes. Marley is Martha Stewart's dog. This is Not A Flattering Homage.

Oh. One last thing I didn't know.

Oh, and I had to flip through one last time and I landed on Mica (Emerson's boyfriend) and yes, he was a Feeder. "He says nothing is sexier than seeing me eat, unless it's seeing me naked." Because the author couldn't imagine anyone else being attracted to us.

Done. I am done.

Thank you all. Tip jar and links to other reads are linked in my pinned tweet. Goodnight.


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